Once or twice on Mother’s Day I felt a little sorry for myself. Since my nest is partially empty, I didn’t get to see all of my kids on Sunday. When my breakfast in bed took forever I even said, “I’m not feeling special!” and was only one-third joking. The waffles were delicious, by the way.
How fortunate I really am to be comfortable, fed, and only a phone call away from everyone I love. I know I am the luckiest mom in the world. The fact I could send one of my kids out for an ice cream run underscores the rich pageant that is my life.
My social good work often reminds me exactly how lucky you and I are. Mothers in Haiti, a country close to my heart, have a much harder row to hoe. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and still recovering from a devastating earthquake that rocked its already-fragile economy. Haitian mothers carry this load.
- For every 100,000 pregnancies in Haiti, 523 women die. For every 100,000 pregnancies in America, only 19 women die.
- A third of all girls over 6 years old never go to school.
- The average Haitian earns only $400 per year. The average American earns $26,000Despite these grim statistics Haitian mothers have hopes and dreams for their children. Parents in Haiti make many sacrifices so their children can attend school. Even if the expense is a few dollars, that’s a huge amount for a Haitian family.
Macy’s Heart of Haiti is a program that brings hope. Heart of Haiti is an effort by Macy’s to bring sustainable income to artisans in this impoverished country. Shortly, after the earthquake in 2010, Macy’s joined forces with the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund and a social entrepreneur to launch a product line for sale at Macys.com and select Macy’s stores. Now five years later, the product line features stunningly beautiful items, many made by Haitian mothers.
Tobacco leaf vases are made by Yvette, a 27-year-old new mother who has built a cottage industry, an area where artisans come together in the town of Jacmel. Not only is she a new mother, she employs and manages a number of artisans. She is able to support her own child, her nieces and nephews through the orders she gets from Macy’s. Here is a video that tells the story of Yvette and her craft.
Chena Giles lives along a dry riverbed outside the town of Leogane. Leogane was the epicenter of the earthquake. She travels down the hill from her home to collect soapstone from the river and carve it into beautiful pieces like the miniature statue pictured below all while her children are at school. She has two children, an 8 year old daughter and a 4 year old son.
She says of Macy’s Heart of Haiti: “It makes me happy to know my work is sold at Macy’s and makes my customers happy. It also makes me happy because I get work and the orders from Macy’s are how I am able to send my children to school.”
These are just two of the 550 artists who work and earn a living creating items for Macy’s Heart of Haiti. The project is trade not aid, meaning the artists receive a hand up not a handout . Each artist receives 50% of the wholesale price which provides sustainable income for them. Here’s a video that tells the story of Chena and her craft.
I love Heart of Haiti products, and have a half-dozen items from the line in my home. Every time I see them, it reminds me of the beautiful, artistic, hopeful people who live there. You can find the entire line at macys.com or selected items at Macy’s located at Herald Square, Brooklyn Downtown, Metro Center, State Street, Northland Center, Seattle Downtown, Portland Downtown, San Francisco Union Square, Biltmore Fashion Park, South Coast Plaza Home, Mission Valley Home, Dallas Galleria, Lenox Square Mall, and Dadeland.
Haiti has an estimated 400,000 artisans (out of a population of ten million) who rely solely on their handcrafted goods as a source of income. No other sector of employment even approaches such numbers. Macy’s Heart of Haiti employs 550 artisans while effecting 4500 others in a positive way.
I was thrilled to be sent this Soapstone Heart Box with Gold Leafing. One of my daughters has claimed it as her own. I talk with her a lot about Haiti. Our church has helped a school there for more than a decade, so it’s a real part of our lives.
I hope every time she sees the soapstone box, she thinks about the mother who loves her so much, and the mothers in Haiti who love their kids too.